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Publisher's Summary

National Best Seller

“Magnificent.” (The New York Times)

“Beguiling, observant, and howlingly funny.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“Spectacular.” (Star Tribune, Minneapolis)

“Full of astonishments.” (The Boston Globe)

Susan Orlean - the beloved New Yorker staff writer hailed as “a national treasure” by The Washington Post and the author of the New York Times best seller The Library Book - gathers a lifetime of musings, meditations, and in-depth profiles about animals.

“How we interact with animals has preoccupied philosophers, poets, and naturalists for ages,” writes Susan Orlean. Since the age of six, when Orlean wrote and illustrated a book called Herbert the Near-Sighted Pigeon, she’s been drawn to stories about how we live with animals, and how they abide by us. Now, in On Animals, she examines animal-human relationships through the compelling tales she has written over the course of her celebrated career.

These stories consider a range of creatures - the household pets we dote on, the animals we raise to end up as meat on our plates, the creatures who could eat us for dinner, the various tamed and untamed animals we share our planet with who are central to human life. In her own backyard, Orlean discovers the delights of keeping chickens. In a different backyard, in New Jersey, she meets a woman who has 23 pet tigers - something none of her neighbors knew about until one of the tigers escapes. In Iceland, the world’s most famous whale resists the efforts to set him free; in Morocco, the world’s hardest-working donkeys find respite at a special clinic. We meet a show dog and a lost dog and a pigeon who knows exactly how to get home. 

Equal parts delightful and profound, enriched by Orlean’s stylish prose and precise research, these stories celebrate the meaningful cross-species connections that grace our collective existence.

©2021 Susan Orlean. All rights reserved. (P)2021 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

What listeners say about On Animals

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Learned so Much from this Work

As someone who volunteered extensively in my life for wildlife and companion-animal organizations at the top of their game, I found Susan Orleans' book highly intelligent, deeply humane, filled with revelations about dogs, homing pigeons, mules, livestock species and so much more. It was one of my favorites of the past five years on Audible.

Gathered largely from her commentaries in The New Yorker, it will bring solace and discovery to anyone who loves well-crafted animal essays, and fine storytelling too.

I disagree with the reader who found Ms. Orleans' voice unlistenable. I suspect that individual has difficulty tolerating an East Coast voice -- as many do in my part of the country. Her voice suits the material beautifully. It can be sharp at times, but even then, the voice suits the material.

The author's stories are also filled with humor and pathos, two qualities that help us focus on what is beautiful and important in this profoundly changed country. I will listen to it again and recommend it to my coworkers and friends. Extremely worthwhile.

42 people found this helpful

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Could have been read better.

The reader ended most sentences with a raised tone. As if it were a question. Annoying.

Stories were mostly interesting however some were boring. Like she needed filler.

I can’t give a full hearted recommendation.

30 people found this helpful

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Love this Collection

I have long been a fan of Susan's writing and reading. Some of these stories have appeared on other audiobook, also read by the author, but most of this is new to me. One odd anomaly is that the audio here seems electronically slowed down. If you change the plackback speed to 1.10 or 1.15, maybe even 1.20, it sounds MUCH closer to the author's natural voice.

I am reiterating here to "Birdman", the RECORDING IS SLOWED DOWN. I am NOT criticizing the narrators voice or reading, I am commenting on a technical issue. This IS NOT her natural voice, it is artificially slowed down. If you think otherwise, listen to audible freebie of Animalish, which an actual-speed recording, vs. the recording of Animalish included here, which is slowed down by aproximately 15%.

21 people found this helpful

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Disappointed

I enjoyed her other books that I had read. Content of this was shallow, scattered and of little value. Her voice sounds grating, nasal and a little blasé, just going through the motions. I regret choosing it.

20 people found this helpful

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Excellent reading of a delightful essay collection

Susan Orlean's narration makes this audiobook a must-listen. Her wry delivery is hilarious and impossible to resist. I hugged my dog a little closer after finishing the book, and didn't want it to end.

7 people found this helpful

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I had a great time with these stories

I learned about this book while listening to a podcast I really love, Factually! with Adam Conover (from Adam Ruins Everything). I remember listening to how she found these different stories and I thought it sounded really interesting. I decided to give it a try and I’m really glad I did.

On Animals is a collection of short stories, some of which I believe were previously published in magazines. Because of this, there is some randomness to the stories. We go from talking about the life of a homing pigeon (did you know you can never move the bird, because it will always go home? You would have to retire it and build an aviary where the birds can never fly openly again). Then there is also a story about oxen in Cuba and how they fell out of favor when Russia provided a ton of tractors and oil to the island country. But when the oil wasn’t flowing as freely, the few people who still knew how to train oxen were at a premium.

She has a chapter on Keiko, the whale from Free Willy. Another on the Tiger Lady of New Jersey (this one reminded me a lot of a story from my area of Ohio, where the owner turned all of his animals loose, then killed himself. Check out the great podcast about it, looking back 10 years later). Another is where she spends time with a champion show dog named Biff.

There are a large number of stories, all animal related. Not all the stories have a happy ending (see Keiko). I found the story on taxidermy to be very interesting (mostly because I knew nothing about the profession, but knew it existed and isn’t at all liked by most animal lovers. This gives you a new perspective on the practice). The story about the Lion Whisperer is another that tells about the tourist trade and its effects on the animals of South Africa.

I found every story interesting, some more than others. I think I learned something in every story. It makes me want to look into her other New York Times best selling books. I think The Library Book is next on my list, though the reviews of The Orchid Thief make it really intriguing as well.

Narration:
The narration is performed by the author. Being a non-fiction book, it doesn’t have the voices and tone required of fiction books. I thought her reading was adequate. I would listen to her read her other books (though I haven’t checked to see if she performs those books as well).

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Animals Rule!

Prior to listening to this book (which I did in preparation for the Animal Medical Center's book club discussion of it tomorrow), I was unaware of Susan Orlean's animal essays in The New Yorker. I had, however, read her The Library Book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I thoroughly enjoyed this book as well. Her passion for animals, those in her own life, and those in the world at large, shines through each essay. While some reviewers have complained that there is no thread tying the stories/essays together, I felt the opposite-each essay focused on the human/animal connection, despite the disparate environs and animals. I learned a lot from this book and experienced a wide range of emotions. I was brought to tears (happy ones, thankfully!) by the story of the stolen dog, was horrified by the essay regarding rabbits and grotesquely fascinated by the one concerning taxidermy. This book was never boring!

3 people found this helpful

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  • jb
  • 12-10-21

Susan Orlean is such a wonderful writer!

Listening to this book was thoroughly enjoyable! Any animal lover would appreciate the depth with which Susan Orlean explores her topics. And she save me a ton of effort and money! I always had a fantasy about owning a country home with chickens, goats, and a whole menagerie of farm animals, but the prevalence of deer ticks alone
In the Hudson Valley is enough to dissuade me. Who am I kidding?
This isn’t a page turner, and though I always prefer to have an author read his or her own work, Ms. Orleans voice is a bit monochromatic. But this is a minuscule contraction and an otherwise delightful experience!

3 people found this helpful

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so many animals

I loved this book. Each of the many stories can stand alone. The stories are informative and give insight into the author's joy of animals.

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Love Susan Orlean Writing

I am a super fan of Ms. Orlean. I love the way she tells a story. Although I didn’t find this book as compelling as The Library Book or The Orchid Thief, I still loved it. I would read anything she writes! I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys her writing style.

1 person found this helpful